02 May 2015

Update Bits #2

Me in 2009 - browsing the market at l'Isle sur la Sorgue.

As many of you seemed to have liked the Update Bits, here is a second edition, with a few random topics I wanted to write a few words on. Besides, it is a good format of article to tiptoe back on the blog after two weeks without internet. If you have any specific topic you'd like to hear about in future update bits, please let me know!

Without Internet

I found myself without internet twice these past six months: for one week in Thailand, as I left the laptop home and only connected for 10 minutes once a day to post a souvenir picture on Instagram or facebook; and for two weeks this past month, as I moved in and waited for the new appartment to get connected.

Both these experiences confirm what I already feel about this topic:
  • At first, it feels weird, worrying even, to be "unconnected"
  • It is incredible how much extra free time there is when I don't check this or browse that for "just five minutes"
  • Missing out isn't such a big deal. Two weeks without twitter or facebook, and I didn't miss such important things after all.

I'm thinking of seriously revising my internet consumption at home now that it's back online. The other activities I replaced it with were far more interesting after all. There might be a level up mini-challenge coming out of all this. 

On Kindness

I have been working on a Utopia for a short story contest these past few weeks, and it got me to think about human nature, or rather, on which parts of human nature today's society is appealing to. And I realized something: despite everything that religions and other moral institutions tell us, I don't believe our society is encouraging kindness today.

One concrete example: when I came back from Thailand, I brought a number of things back for my loved ones - one day, as we discussed hand-made flower-shaped soaps I brought back as a gift, a friend who also went there said "wow, you have been cheated here, we went with a Thai-speaking guy and we paid less than half the price for it".

In other words, giving decent money for a hand-made object, which is still nothing for me (6€ at most) is considered "being cheated", with no regards to the person who made it and earns very little compared to me. This mindset seems to be anchored in our society, that kind people are going to "be cheated" by less scrupulous individuals. There is a saying in French that says "trop bon, trop con" ("too good, too stupid").

While it is true that being too naive can indeed lead to being actually cheated, I think the situation of an actual rip off is rare enough. On the other hand, keeping this mindset  daily encourages selfish behaviour, to negotiate and bargain for our own personal gain and interests instead of looking to be kind and help other people.

While I was in Thailand, I was picky about what I bought (I picked wood instead of cheap resin for example), but I never tried to negotiate prices, because I considered it a kindness to give whatever I could to these local people who live off tourism. Not only does this encourage me to be kinder, it also avoids much headache and fosters a more serene mindset - I mean, how do you feel when you think you have been cheated? How do you feel when you think you have been kind?

In the end, it's all about changing the world view in order to be kinder, but also feel better with ourselves and our choices. Being kind is a strength, not a weakness, as today's society wants us to believe. Personally, I'm blaming Voltaire for this (his book Candide wasn't very nice to kind people).

The Strength to Endure

I will end these update bits with a word on growth and confidence as a human being. As you may have noticed if you have been reading this blog for a while, the road to simplification hasn't been only about editing material items for me.

One unexpected side effect of simplifying, and cultivating mindfulness, has been to grow as a human being. I got to know myself better, strengths and weaknesses alike, to accept myself as a whole, and keep growing. But it is always easier to feel happy and fulfilled in the calmer periods of life.

As I discovered with the turmoils of a move (which is a minor turmoil after all, financial, material and logistic only), growing in confidence, being who we are and being comfortable with ourselves gives strength to endure these more difficult moments of life.
Being at peace with yourself doesn't mean a constant happiness, we feel all kinds of emotions and that's what makes life beautiful. However, in the face of a hardship that generates negative emotions - of anxiety, worry and fatigue in the case of a move - I discovered that this journey of inner growth helps coping with the situation, being more tolerant with how I feel, taking time to let the emotions express themselves and then go back to the practicalities of finding a solution.

I guess it's a part of growing up in general, but this simplification journey, that fosters mindfulness, knowing and accepting oneself, seems to help a lot with harder times. My alien advisor helped a lot too. I mean, how terrible can a move be compared to having your planet invaded by Goa'uld?

"Indeed". (source: Stargate SG1 TV series)

That's it for today's update bits, I hope you enjoyed the post. I'll be getting back to posting more regularly little by little, as I settle down in my new daily life. What about you? How was April for you?


  1. Welcome back! :) I used to do internet-free Sundays fairly regularly a long time ago, and lately I've been thinking I should start again. Even though I don't work on the weekends, it's incredible how much those small amounts of internet time add up!

    1. Exactly! I was thinking of starting with banning Internet from home on week days, since I already work on a computer all day, and see what I can do about week-ends from there. Maybe have an allocated time frame (for blogging for example)? But yes, it is true that it amounts to quite a lot of time in the end :)

  2. Kali,

    I missed you when you were taking an internet break. I checked back to see if i missed something in my feed.

    and well said Kali. We constantly need to work on our inner beauty. Much more than external. All the talk about wardrobes and body care is great, but ....Very well said.

    - Archana.

    1. Thanks! I noticed you have posted quite a few things on your own blog these past weeks, I enjoyed catching up with these :)
      Yes I agree that many things start from the inside, and transpire outside - you know, a confident woman with a healthy self esteem will probably look better in the end, if only because of her attitude, outlook and behaviour. I still think it's important to take care of our body, but in a nurturing kind of way, rather than trying to mold it to some image of perfection... That's definitely a topic worth thinking about indeed!

  3. Welcome back to the internet (chiming in with Archana) we missed you :)
    Ugh, that story is so annoying. I feel the same way, what's an extra 3€ to most of us? Yet it means a lot to these people. I also just might be terrible at haggling. If a price seems fair I don't feel the need to haggle over it anymore.
    Also this post just made me think of that quote by Al Capone: “Don't mistake my kindness for weakness. I am kind to everyone, but when someone is unkind to me, weak is not what you are going to remember about me.” I've had to explain that to a few people, since I generally consider myself a kind, polite, and maybe a little reserved, and for some reason people take that as an invitation to take advantage of me. Just because someone is kind doesn't mean that they're a pushover, but just that they're trying to make the world a more pleasant place for everyone. I do wish the world encouraged kindness more.

    1. Oh I like this quote from Al Capone - also, many people tend to mistake kindness for, you know, stupidity, naïveté, a lack of purpose or ambition. You know "soft". But one can be kind and still make sound decisions for their own life without having to stomp everyone else to reach their goals. But society encourages this biased vision of kindness, and it seems also encourages the idea of being sharp-edged and competitive as a form of success. I also wish it were a bit different sometimes, it would make everyone's life easier on so many levels. Imagining a plausible utopia has been a wonderful exercise on this front :)

  4. Welcome back Kali! What a wonderful post. I agree with you about being "offline" for a while. The occasions where you have to be offline because there are no connections around seem to get fewer and fewer (at my last holiday we even had wifi at the beach), which means it has to be a conscious decision to actually log off these days. I'm terrible at it - if I'm nowhere near wifi I'm always connected by cellular, and price plans are starting to get so cheap that I can even afford to be connected by cellular when traveling in the EU. I've managed to disconnect myself a bit from my laptop, but I'm still struggling with that damn phone.

    Also, I agree 100% with Erin above me. I sometimes feel bad about being kind and polite in a society that encourages sharp elbows, but I always try to remember this quote by Maya Angelou: “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” I hope to be remembered as the one who spread good vibes.

    1. Ah another quote I really like, thanks girls! It is very true in the end. I wonder how this affects self esteem on the long term too. I remember organizing a press event some time ago, and we hired 2 consultants as speakers for press interviews. One of them was the typical haggler, talking prices even before I'd fully explained the extent of the event and the expertise we needed from him. The other one on the other hand, was very kind, open, and interested in our event, his only request was to be able to get a double bedroom so his wife could join him and visit town while he worked with us. In the end, the haggler got paid much more than the kind one for the same job, but he wasn't very nice, and he didn't seem very happy in his life (from where I stood anyway, I don't know anything about him privately), whereas the other one was so happy to participate, enthusiastic, he seemed to have a much better time in the end. Honestly, I prefer to be the kind one who maybe gets paid less but enjoys every opportunity of life, eather than a bitter haggler who gets money but ends up unhappy. Anyway, I forgot where I wanted to go with this example.

      I agree with you that the phone is the worst to get unglued to. My data plan is quite small as it's an old contract I have never updated, but I actually don't think I will ask for more data, as it forces me to stay away from my phone if I want to save some of that data to instagram until the end of the month. It has to be a conscious decision in any case, but I'm going to try to set up easy rules for myself, to see if it makes a difference without using up too much willpower (which I need for other topics right now)...

  5. So very true on kindness. Having been to China with my family (who are from Hong Kong), they always asked me what I paid if I bought anything. I never haggled. And I was always told I was being had. Well to be honest, I was happy to pay them what they asked because in terms of money, it was still a small amount to be compared to what it was in the UK and basically in my eyes, I still had more than what the seller had and I wouldn't want to disrespect someone's livelihood.

    And what both Erin and Maja said above - so true, so valid.

    1. Thanks for sharing your experience on the topic! I'm happy to hear I'm not the only one in that situation, hopefully these people meet a lot of kind tourists along the way :)

  6. Love your post (and all your posts actually!). I'm also in the moving thing (and in the Internet break too, I feel I can't stop thinking about anything else than household appliances deliveries or search for a good sofa) so I completly understand what you're getting through.
    So, just a quick word to say reading you is very inspiring and refreshing :)

    1. Thanks, I'm glad you like it, I enjoy reading your blog a lot too :) Oh my I understand you on the sofa, we are also looking for a good one, among a couple other things for the new home, and it does take some mind space doesn't it? Thanks for your support and good luck for your own move :)